Title: The Falls
Author Name & Publisher: Jon Garcia and Marty Beaudet (DSP Publications)
Publication Date & Length: January 5, 2016 – 200 pgs
You see them everywhere, Mormon missionaries dressed in their white shirts, ties, and suit pants. With their short-cut hair, they ride on their bicycles and knock on doors, trying to convert the world to their brand of religion. In their church community, they are revered for exemplifying the wholesomeness and goodness of being a Mormon youth.
RJ and Chris are no different. Both were born and raised in the Mormon church. Both excelled academically, progressed ecclesiastically, earned their Eagle Scout rank at a young age, and had pretty girlfriends. And now it s their turn to serve a mission and experience the Mormon rite of passage.
Unknown to them, serving a mission not only opens strangers’ doors to preach the Gospel as they were taught, but awakens secrets of their own lives while in service to their fellow man secrets their church is not ready to embrace. ”
I’m usually drawn to books with religious themes, which was why I chose this one. As a story, it’s decent–there’s a nice, slow build to the relationship between RJ and Chris, some intense emotional moments, and some humor. RJ is a great narrator, the right combination of naive but thoughtful, his maturity increasing incrementally throughout. I enjoyed watching his growth and the way his universe expanded from his relatively sheltered upbringing. I was slower to warm to Chris. He wasn’t especially likable at first, and since I didn’t know the story, I kept thinking he was onto RJ and was going to be the one to out him. His trajectory seemed to be almost opposite of RJ’s–he started off as clearly the more knowledgeable one, but he also ended up being the one whose doubts festered. That produced an interesting dynamic between them, and it’s one I think a lot of people who grew up with strict religion can relate to.
What really sold me on this novel was how it made me think about some of the ways in which even progressive churches can and do still limit who they think is a worthy messenger of God. RJ never loses his faith; in fact, coming to terms with his sexuality deepens it, and he himself brings up the question of who can represent God to the world. These are ongoing issues even in fully affirming denominations, and it’s something important to consider. RJ’s unapologetic expressions of who he is–both with his religion and his relationships–is a challenge even to the most welcoming churches.
I’m excited to see so many books which are clearly written for lgbtq+ people of faith in which open dialog about belief, doubt, and holiness is handled with such grace and care. This is a must-read for any Christians, both lgbtq+ and not and both LDS and not, who are struggling to reconcile spirituality and identity. It was clearly written with such an audience in mind.
This is not a traditional romance by any stretch. Readers looking for “hot gay Mormon action” would be better off finding something different. Those who want a deeper understanding of the LDS church and a good example of lgbtq+ people of faith will enjoy this one.
This beautifully moving story makes for difficult and unsettling reading. The authors have researched the experiences of LGBT youth in the Mormon church with exacting detail and the resulting story is compelling and absolutely fascinating.
The authors capture the naive innocence of the twenty-year-old missionaries perfectly. Even when the boys aren’t terribly likeable, they are uncomfortably recognisable. At the start, RJ and Chris almost feel like alien creatures. Their devout, robotic routines leave little room for personality. Their initial beliefs are often offensive and off-putting to non-Mormons, so it is difficult to warm to the boys. It is only when the devotion starts to slip and their beliefs and practises are challenged that Chris and RJ begin to feel human and real – both to readers and to each other.
The story is told from RJ’s perspective. His character is more confident and his struggles feel more open and honest, making him an easier character for readers to come to care for. Chris grapples more with fear, doubt and guilt and by the end of the story I still found it difficult to empathise with his character.
I haven’t seen either of the films so this was completely new to me. I love the way truth and belief is questioned and wrestled with but never judged by the writers. The compatibility of faith with LGBT identity is a complex subject and the authors refuse to treat it lightly. The result is a difficult but important story.
My only frustration with this story is that it still feels more like a film script than a novel at times. There are descriptive gaps which would be clear on film but require more description in novel format. At times this feels like a series of scenes spliced together. On film, such gaps and time lapses are linked by visual cues unavailable to readers.
It is important for readers to realise is that this isn’t a stand-alone romance. This is more of a drama than a traditional romance and readers expecting a formulaic progression towards a HEA will be disappointed. On the other hand, readers wanting an unbiased, compassionate insight into the experience of LGBT youth in the Mormon church will find this a provocative, touching story.
Marty Beaudet has worked in the communications field for 29 years, as an actor, writer, photographer, graphic designer, content creator, editor, journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker. His current focus is on narrative fiction, in print and on film.
He is the author of three books, “By A Thread,” “Losing Addison,” and “Senseless Confidential” (writing as Martin Bannon), and he is the founder of FauxMeme Productions, a film, video, and audio production company in Portland, Oregon.